By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura: A good final push for what appears to be the WWE Payback main event. Nakamura’s subtitle promos are really working and it’s crazy that it’s taken so long for WWE to take this approach with him. His latest sneak attack on Rollins was nicely done and he’s generated good heat since he turned heel. The story of Seth’s back injury has added something the vulnerability factor, which may be enough to make some fans believe that Nakamura is a threat to beat him for the championship.
Becky Lynch vs. Zoey Stark in a Falls Count Anywhere match: Great effort from both wrestlers to close the show on a high note. Lynch’s feud with Trish Stratus hasn’t really grabbed me, but this match did an effective job of building toward what should be the blowoff match at WWE Payback. Lynch showing genuine emotion while holding up the “Bray” armband at the end of the show was one of those moments that will really stick with me as a viewer.
Damian Priest vs. Sami Zayn: A nice opening match with a distraction finish that didn’t feel lazy. JD McDonagh’s involvement plays into his ongoing story with Judgment Day and his issues with Zayn, so his involvement was logical and moved things forward. Rhea Ripley’s threat later in the show about how the faction needs to leave Payback with gold or changes will be made was an interesting development.
Rhea Ripley and Raquel Rodriguez: Another good brawl from the champion and her toughest challenger to date. I can’t imagine that this is a one and done title program, so I’m curious to see how they handle their match on Saturday and how it sets up future matches.
The Miz spoofs LA Knight: Miz delivered a really good impersonation of Knight. Perhaps it was too good, as he hit hard and pointed out things that some fans may not have noticed until he brought them to their attention. Knight is so over that it’s hard to imagine that this will affect him, but I am surprised the creative forces are accentuating the negatives through Miz rather than focussing on his positives.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bronson Reed: The finish was off because Reed tumbled over while taking the crucifix bomb, but it wasn’t enough to ruin what was an otherwise entertaining back and forth battle. While t’s nice to see Ciampa get some main roster wins, it’s surprising that this one came at the expense of Reed, who is taking too many losses for a powerhouse wrestler.
WWE Raw Misses
Chad Gable vs. Ludwig Kaiser: If we’re talking just in-ring quality, then this was a big Hit as the best match of the night. It landed in the Miss section because it didn’t give Gable a strong enough boost heading into his Intercontinental Championship match. As much as I enjoy the work of Kaiser, this felt like a spot for him to take a clean and decisive lose as Gunther’s setup man. Rather, Gable didn’t even get the pin, as they opted to have Giovanni Vinci break it up for the disqualification. Furthermore, this program should have been a real test to see if Gable could connect as a more serious character. Unfortunately, he’s still in total comedy mode with promos that are all based around his “shooosh” and “thank you” bits. I am looking forward to Gunther vs. Gable next week, but not as much as I would be had Gable been positioned as a stronger threat.
“New Day” Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. “The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar: Another well worked match. The issue is that both teams feel cold. The New Day act is tired, and the viking cosplayers gimmick looks so campy. The company did a lot of damage to the Viking Raiders by having them take so many losses. Perhaps they could bounce back with a strong enough push, but I’d really like to see them get a fresh start with an overhauled gimmick.